Monthly Archives: December 2014

Tracking Santa

We all know that on Christmas Eve you can call NORAD or visit their website to find out where Santa is, but how exactly did NORAD come to be in charge of Santa’s global voyage on Christmas Eve?

Call Santa at Sears!

The famous Sears ad that misprinted Santa’s number.

It was back in 1955 that Sears Roebuck & Company in Colorado Springs printed a newspaper advertisement telling kids that they can call Santa about their holiday toys, but the number was misprinted and instead of getting an elf at Sears, kids ended up getting a soldier at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), guarding America against surprise attacks. The frazzled soldiers looked to the CONAD Director of Operations for guidance regarding Santa. The old elf obviously was not a threat to America’s security, but the volume of calls was not diminishing. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, the CONAD duty officer at the time, instructed all the soldiers to report Santa’s position to the callers. It may not have been in the scope of their mission, but it was the right thing to do. Santa tracking became an annual tradition at CONAD as their mission was to watch the skies.

In 1958 Canada and the United States agreed to enter joint monitoring of North American air space, creating the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and replacing CONAD. And CONAD’s Christmas Eve mission to track Santa transitioned to NORAD, along with all of the other national security duties.

In the early days of the Santa Tracking program, the calls were taken by military personnel, first those who actively watched the skies, then, to ease their burden, volunteer soldiers were used to field Santa questions. The annual tradition grew to include families and friends of the soldiers and over time the public engaged in the project, supporting the massive volume of calls inquiring about Santa.

Today hundreds of volunteers take calls from kids, asking where Santa is and when he will visit with presents. Outside of basic publicity, NORAD’s Santa Tracking program is not taxpayer funded. It is staffed by volunteers and receives corporate sponsorship to support the website, the phone lines and office operations.

Colonel Shoup

Colonel “Santa” Harry Shoup

Christmas Eve Santa tracking has grown from an accidental misprint to a major operation over the years, all because Colonel Harry Shoup cared about the curious children as much as he did about national security. His willingness to step up and provide information led to a legacy that is world renowned.

Curious as to where Santa is on Christmas Eve? Check out the Santa tracking website at http://www.noradsanta.org/ or call the NORAD volunteers at 877-HI-NORAD (877-446-6723). But remember, Santa stops at your house only when you’re asleep.

Good night. And Merry Christmas!

2014 Denver Parade of Lights

There’s a riot out there!

Okay. It wasn’t quite a riot. It was a minor civic disturbance.

This year, as for the last decade, OMEGA’s members supported the Denver Parade of Lights. This includes shadowing event officials, monitoring critical intersections, walking the parade route to monitor and manage flow and public safety.

Tiger 1

The evolution of cat.

Tiger 2

Unpacking the Snow Tiger to get ready for the parade.

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger 3

The paw bone is connected to the … leg bone?

Tiger 4

A little helium makes the big cat happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger 5

Tiger on the prowl. Fueled up and ready to go.

Tiger 6

Parade balloons lining up at staging.

 

 

 

 

 

Last year the Denver Parade of Lights was memorable because it was our coldest deployment ever. Temperatures dipped down to -2ºF with an estimated wind chill at -17ºF. Some parade participants had to cancel out because their floats or musical instruments could not hold up to this excessive cold.

Gauntlet 1

The parade step-off at the grandstands.

Gauntlet 2

Channel 9’s media stand for the parade color commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

Gauntlet 3

Parade merge area at 14th and Bannock.

Gauntlet 4

Float staging area.

 

 

 

 

 

Protest 1

A peaceful start to the protest along Broadway in Civic Center Park.

2014’s Denver Parade of Lights is the 40th anniversary of the event and it was meant to be fairly festive, but leading into the weekend we were warned by several sources that protests were being planned and additional caution needed to be exercised. The protests were to be in support of Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner of Staten Island, NY.

Friday night the parade went off without a hitch. It was televised. The biggest issue was stopping and starting the parade in synch with the commercial breaks. One would guess that after all these years the dynamics of stopping and starting would be like clockwork, but that still isn’t the case. Friday night the parade has the distinction of being televised in real time. It starts at 8 PM and is generally attended by a slightly older crowd, made up of those who work in the downtown area and stay late to take part in the festivities and party.

Protest 2

Signs of trouble.

In contrast, the Saturday version of the parade starts at 6 PM. It tends to bring the families in from the suburbs and as a rule, there are a lot more children lining the streets.

Protesters did make an appearance on Friday, but they stayed in Civic Center Park along Broadway and the protest was peaceful. That changed on Saturday.

Saturday started out beautifully. The temperatures were in the 40s and crowds were huge. Places along the 2 mile route saw people standing twenty deep to witness the parade. The protesters were once again in Civic Center Park. At the start of the evening there was no hint that anything could go sour.

As anticipated, the parade stepped off on time to the roar of the crowds and on the whole progressed very well. Protesters were visible behind the spectators, holding up their signs and exercising their right to free speech in a peaceful manner. The 2014 parade consisted of 43 parade elements and lined up the bands, floats, balloons and other components made up about two miles worth of festivities. It takes about an hour for the parade to snake its way along the downtown route and as the lead banner and the honor guard at the front approached disband, they passed Santa and his sleigh as he enter the parade route through the grandstand platforms.

Santa was already on the parade route and about a quarter of the lineup had crossed back into the disband area when the first call announcing trouble went out. There was a report of heavy police activity at 17th and Arapahoe, around the half way mark in the parade, and police were asking the parade organizers to reroute the parade down Curtis Street rather than continuing down Arapahoe as originally planned.

Protest 3

Police holding back the protesters at 17th and Arapahoe.

Protest 4

Protesters going toe to toe with police.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the request was given serious consideration, it was logistically impossible. Not only had thousands of people gathered along Arapahoe to watch the parade (and diverting would potentially cause a riot), but logistically it was simply impossible. Parade elements were already on 17th past Curtis and could not be turned to come back. There were no safety barricades along Curtis, no route marshals or monitors, no police. The street had not been checked for hazards or obstacles. Vehicles were still parked along both sides of the road. The list of why this was not possible was virtually limitless.

Protest 5

A row of police vehicles staged along Curtis Street to respond to any trouble.

A lot of resources were diverted to 17th and Arapahoe, both in front of and behind the police activity to manage the parade lineup and make some critical decisions regarding how to proceed.

Protest 6

In the end it was inconvenient, but manageable.

What had happened was that a handful of protesters broke through the barriers and staged a “die-in” at the intersection. Their goal was to lay in the parade route for four and a half minutes, one minute for each hour that Michael Brown’s body was left in the streets of Ferguson. This turned a peaceful protest into a disruptive protest and assuming the worst, the world descended on the occupied intersection. It did not take long for the police to get the protesters off the street. One was arrested, the rest returned to the sidewalk peacefully. The parade continued, but the setting had soured.

Protest 7

The protesters were convinced to move off the parade route.

The evening finished without any additional incidents and there were no injuries to any of the participants or spectators, but adrenaline did have an opportunity to spike and what could have been a simple organized protest resulted in a dark shadow over the festive environment.

 

 

The parade finished with a slight delay through much lighter crowds that dispersed either due to fear or uncertainty if the parade would be allowed to continue. There were several debriefings after the parade to discuss what happened and what could have been done better.

Protest 8

The protest continued for some time and did receive attention.

Protest 9

Police remained in place, keeping an eye on the protesters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone is obviously thankful that there were no injuries. The weather this year was a major bonus, but it could not mask the disruptive events. No one involved in the parade said that demonstrations or public expression were unwelcome, but the means of the protest were not well thought out. We hope that in the future anyone with a statement to make considers the positive and negative impact of how the message is delivered.

We look forward to a calmer 2015 event. And we are hoping for unseasonably warm weather.

2015 Moulage Class

OMEGA will be hosting a moulage class at Littleton High School on Saturday, January 10. The class will run 10 AM to 2 PM.

Just what is moulage? Moulage is used in simulations to help emergency responders better visualize injuries they may have to work with. Injuries range from cuts to bullet holes to shrapnel to amputations. And if the simulation calls for it, there might be room for the walking dead.

Working with simulated injuries helps responders learn what the injury looks like and develop a better understanding when it comes to treating the injury. It also helps desensitize the responder when it comes to dealing with the real thing because moulage helps set expectations and prepare the responder to working with injuries.

If you are interested in attending, please register for this class on our website at http://goo.gl/54a8x7. There is no cost for this training.

Moulage TrainingMoulage Training